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Sears, Djanet 1959- (Janet Sears)

Sears, Djanet 1959- (Janet Sears)

PERSONAL:

Born 1959, in London, England; immigrated to Canada, 1974. Education: York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, B.F.A. (honors); attended the Canadian Film Center and New York University, New York, NY.

ADDRESSES:

E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Writer, playwright, editor, director, performer, and educator. University of Toronto, University College, adjunct professor of drama. Joseph Papp Public Theatre, New York, NY, international artist-in-residence, 1996; University of Guelph, writer-in-residence; Nightwood Theatre, playwright-in-residence, 1994-95. Obsidian Theatre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, founding member.

Director of stage productions, including Shakes, Cabaret Productions, York University, 1982; Copper Tin Can, Groundswell, 1988; A Streetcar Named Desire, Canadian Actor's Equity Association, 1989; Ella and Jennifer, Groundswell, 1989; Princess Pocahontas and the Blue Spots, Groundswell, 1989; Dark Diaspora … in Dub, Toronto Fringe Festival, 1990; The Wonder of Man, Nightwood Theatre, 1992; Har-lem Duet, Blue Heron Theatre, 2002; and The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God, Mirvish Productions, 2003-04.

Director of recorded productions, including Conditions Critical, Verse to Vinyl Records, 1989; Playsongs and Lullabies, Teds Records, 1989; Winterlong, Teds Records, 1991; and Daysongs and Nightsongs, Teds Records, 1993.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Canadian Governor General's Literary Award, 1998, and Trillium Book Award shortlist, 2004, both for The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God; Floyd S. Chalmers Canadian Play Award, 1998; Timothy Findley Award, Stratford Festival, 2004; Martin Luther King, Jr., Achievement Award; Harry Jerome Award for Excellence in the Cultural Industries; Phenomenal Women of the Arts Award, XCLuSV Group; Dora Mavor Moore Award (multiple recipient).

WRITINGS:

PLAYS

Afrika Solo, Sister Vision Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1991.

Harlem Duet, Scirocco Drama (Winnipeg, Ontario, Canada), 1997.

The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God, Playwrights Canada Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2003.

EDITOR

Testifyin': Contemporary African Canadian Drama, Volume I, Playwrights Canada Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2000.

Tellin' It Like It Is: A Compendium of African Canadian Monologues for Actors, Playwrights Union of Canada (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2000.

Testifyin': Contemporary African Canadian Drama, Volume II, Playwrights Canada Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2004.

Also author of Notes of a Colored Girl, 1997.

Contributor to anthologies, including Taking the Stage: Plays by Canadian Women and Women on the Canadian Stage: The Legacy of Hrotsvit.

SIDELIGHTS:

Author and editor Djanet Sears is a prolific playwright, performer, and director of stage productions and audio projects. Born Janet Sears in 1959 in London, England, she is the daughter of a Jamaican mother and a Guyanese father. Sears and her family moved to Canada in 1974, and there she pursued her higher education. "As an adult, she traveled to West Africa, where she came across a plateau area called Djanet. It was this that inspired her to change her name to Djanet and embrace her African ancestry," reported a biographer on the VG: Voices from the Gaps Web site.

As a playwright, Sears holds the distinction of being the author of Afrika Solo, the first Canadian stage play by a person of African descent, noted a contributor to the Library and Archives Canada Web site. The sequel, Harlem Duet, is structured as a prequel to Shakespeare's Othello. Diana Brydon, writing in Modern Drama, called the play a "brilliant re-siting of Shakespeare's Othello within the African diasporic contexts of Harlem and Canada." Sears was the recipient of Canada's highest literary honor for dramatic writing, the Canadian Governor's General Award, for the play.

Sears is also the editor of a pair of influential volumes of Canadian African plays, Testifyin': Contemporary African Canadian Drama. In the first volume, Sears presents the complete text of ten plays "from among the works that she has identified by seventy-four Black playwrights in Canada," wrote Brydon. Plays highlighted in the book include Riot, by Andrew Moodie; Prodigals in a Promised Land, by H.J. Bunyan; and Whylah Falls, by George Elliot Clark. Sears herself contributes her play Harlem Duet. She also provides an introduction that helps place the plays into a social and historical context. The text, Brydon observed, is "useful and serves its purpose well. Each play is provided with a brief introduction, written especially for this collection, and a production history, accompanied by a photograph of the author and often another from the production. These introductions serve as brief but indispensable guides to the context and history of each script and its productions and often provide resources for further research." Brydon called the book "a welcome publication."

The second volume of Testifyin' is "a collection of extremely powerful plays that range in theme from land rights to metrosexuality, from slavery to religion," commented Pramod K. Nayar in Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal. The volume contains works such as Angelique, by Lorena Gale; Jean and Dinah Who Have Been Locked Away in a World Famous Disco since 1956 Speak Their Minds Publicly, by Tony Hall; yagayah, by Debbie Young and Naila Belvett; and Sears's own The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God, which Pramod called "one of the most powerful plays in the collection.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Books in Canada, June, 1991, review of Afrika Solo, p. 38.

Canadian Book Review Annual, 1997, review of Harlem Duet, p. 250; 2000, review of Testifyin': Contemporary African Canadian Drama, Volume 1, p. 235.

Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal, spring, 2004, Pramod K. Nayar, review of Testifyin': Contemporary African Canadian Drama, Volume II, p. 138.

Canadian Literature, spring, 2001, Clara Joseph, "Literature of Belangini," p. 133; spring, 2001, Wayde Compton, "The Living Word," p. 165; summer, 2002, "Dramatic Empathy," review of Tellin' It Like It Is: A Compendium of African Canadian Monologues for Actors, p. 179; spring, 2006, Nadine Sivak, "Loss and Remembrance," p. 124.

Canadian Theatre Review, winter, 1998, Alison Sealy Smith, "The Nike Method," p. 24; spring, 2004, Harry J. Elam, review of Testifyin': Contemporary African Canadian Drama, Volumes 1 and 2, p. 117.

Kola, winter, 2003, "Vision Celebration 2003," p. 64.

Maclean's, July 21, 1997, "Looking for the Limelight," p. 37.

Modern Drama, winter, 2001, Diana Brydon, review of Testifyin': Contemporary African Canadian Drama, Volume I, p. 498; summer, 2002, Peter Dickinson, "Duets, Duologues, and Black Diasporic Theatre: Djanet Sears, William Shakespeare, and Others," review of Harlem Duet, p. 188.

Prairie Fire, summer, 1998, review of Harlem Duet, p. 199.

Quill & Quire, May, 2000, Donna Nurse, "Writing through Race: Black Writers on Being Edited, Published, and Reviewed in Canada," p. 1.

Theatrum, April-May, 1992, review of Afrika Solo, p. 31.

University of Toronto Quarterly, fall, 1992, Jerry Wasserman, review of Afrika Solo, p. 85.

Variety, September 7, 1988, "Milk and Honey," p. 27.

ONLINE

Canadian Adaptations of Shakespeare Web site,http://www.canadianshakespeares.ca/ (June 24, 2007), Mat Buntin, interview with Djanet Sears.

Library and Archives Canada Web site,http://www.collectionscanada.ca/ (June 24, 2007), biography of Djanet Sears.

University of Toronto, University College Drama Program Web site,http://www.ucdp.utoronto.ca/ (June 24, 2007), biography of Djanet Sears.

VG: Voices from the Gaps,http://voices.cla.umn.edu/VG/ (June 24, 2007), biography of Djanet Sears.

Word Magazine,http://www.wordmag.com/ (June 24, 2007), Cheryl Hazell, "Djanet Sears: Transforming Canadian Theatre," profile of Djanet Sears.

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